Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joel Melendez, left, Air Force Staff Sgt. Rogerick Montgomery and Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Harding analyze an exercise scenario during Cyber Flag 13-1 in 2012 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (Air Force)
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The Air Force and the Defense Department's greater cyber community continues to grow, which may mean thousands of new jobs during a time of cutbacks.
The Air Force is reviewing the cyber structure of the 24th Air Force and the service's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency to find the best way to provide airmen and capability to U.S. Cyber Command, which is standing up dozens of new cyber teams across all the services over the next three years to be on the offensive in the digital realm.
“Right now we do not have enough people,” said Maj. Gen. Earl Matthews, the director of cyberspace operations and chief information officer, at a recent cyber event.
The new cyber teams will add 5,000 people, with about a third of them being Air Force.
Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said earlier this year the service is planning to bring in more than 1,000 new positions through fiscal 2016 at a breakdown of 80 percent military and 20 percent civilian.
The Air Force Personnel Center may change questions in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test to determine an airman's aptitude in the cyber realm.
Army Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, said the command is looking for more than 40 cyber “teams” across all services to address threats in the cyber realm, with 13 teams used by the department solely to defend threats and that would be stationed at Fort Meade, Md.
“This is an offensive team the Defense Department would use to defend the nation if it were attacked in cyberspace,” he said.
Twenty seven of the USCYBERCOM teams would support each of the combatant commands in planning for offensive capabilities and be based at cyber-command headquarters around the world. Another group of teams would be used to defend the military's networks themselves.
“They are the counter-cyber force,” Alexander said. “I call that offensive because their job is to stop — like a missile coming into the country — their job would be to stop that and provide options to the White House and the president on what more to do. So they're the folks who would counter any cyber adversary.”
The breakdown will start to take shape with the administration's fiscal 2014 budget proposal, expected early this month. The plan is to have one-third of the teams operational by September, another third in September 2014 and the last third by September 2015, Alexander said.
The National Guard will be involved in the cyber ramp-up, Alexander said. This summer, the command will hold its second Cyber Guard exercise alongside the National Security Administration at Fort Meade. The Guard will focus on cyber protection and be centered around high-tech areas in the country — including Silicon Valley, Washington state and New England — and work alongside such agencies as U.S. Northern Command, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, Alexander said.